In the advent of year 2020, the whole world was hit by a new mysterious viral disease called Coronavirus. It was originated in Wuhan city of China and has spread vastly across the world. This virus hits mainly the Respiratory System of people and varies in symptoms. The swift dissemination among countries has sent myriads of people into lockdown and caused marked effects on every nation in several sectors. Nevertheless, Coronavirus pandemic has massive impact on the education system as well as the mentality of students and academic staffs.
Coronavirus outbreak has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 30th of January. Twelve days later, WHO called this virus COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – events as they happen, 2020). In March, as the cases increased rapidly, most countries declared National Emergency. This implies following the WHO safety rules starting with the Education Division. Since the future generations are the most concern of any nation in the world, some changes implemented on the education system, such as changing the mode of teaching delivery by suspending physical classes in order to apply the social distance rule and to avoid the crowd. For instance, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) of Al-Arabiya News Channel reports a statement of Education Ministry that because “of the wise leadership’s interest in its children” concerning their safety, intensive protection measures have been applied by shutting down school buildings and adopting alternative learning delivery method. Hence, classes are transitioned into online teaching platforms (Saudi Arabia suspends all schools until further notice amid coronavirus concerns, 2020).
Starting with transitioning from regular schools into virtual ones. Many students and teachers got thrilled with this decision. However, for the Ministry of Education, it is vital to make sure that the new teaching style would meet the quality required in carrying out the educational curriculum as well as the evaluation and assessment process. For higher education levels, it is not difficult to adapt to that situation as many universities have already been giving virtual classes as well as face to face ones. An example of that is Arab Open University in the Middle East with its blended learning system. That said, all its students along with the academic staffs are well trained for such circumstances. Yet, there are some universities that lack this kind of capability of providing such qualified online teaching courses. Especially that there is a difference between giving well equipped online classes versus emergency distance teaching. Hodges et al. (2020) mentioned that turning into e-learning can facilitate the learning method anytime and anywhere but the speed in moving all instructions to online is still considered a challenging task for some faculties. Whereas, for lower education levels, it is hard for young kids to manage online classes without being monitored by adults. However, by shifting into virtual schools, some difficulties were encountered concerning the quality of education, resources and technical facilities.
Quality of education is not confined to the delivery mode but also related to the outcome results of the teaching methods that are achieved through evaluations and assessments. Shifting from physical classes to online ones has affected the evaluating procedures. The process of grading has become a grueling mission for many faculties. Despite the capability to teach virtual classes, the assessment process is still in progress. Many universities have suspended the final exams especially for the recent graduates. Besides, changing the exams to fit the online mode has given extra work for the staffs in charge. Not to mention the difficulty to monitor those students who take online exams and making sure that they are not cheating. Furthermore, the practical exams that should be taken in laboratories and cannot be taken online are also a dilemma that should be taken into consideration. Therefore, the quality of online education is a serious matter that requires proper attention and flexible solutions (Sahu, 2020).
Technical facilities and resources are some of the critical issues that many faculties and students have encountered. Hence, there are some departments that lack the infrastructure or the resources to meet the requirements of running the virtual classes. Not to mention that there are some academic departments which are not techno-savvy leading them to encounter some difficulties in dealing with this outbreak. In addition, there is still an unsolved matter regarding classes that cannot be conducted online. Such as music, labs, medical classes … etc. As far as students, some are susceptible to losing marks by missing some presentations or projects submission caused by poor or loss of internet connection. Moreover, some do not even have access to the internet at home. Not to mention the extra cost of purchasing laptops or even tablets that not all can afford to manage following their online classes. This has burdened many families economically and psychologically especially ones who got large number of learners. An American non-profit institution called Rand Cooperation for Objective Analysis and Effective Solution has posted an interview with a Senior Behavioral Scientist, Laura Hamilton, states that “online learning do not do well as face to face classes assuming that those students do have access”(The Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. Education System, 2020).
Another disadvantage this pandemic created is mental issues. Since the closure of schools, students have been deprived of their school activities and social interaction. That has led some kids to develop some mental stress such as depression, anxiety and bad temper since they are not able to release their negative energy by engaging in group sports, working out or socializing. Another reason for some students’ anxiety come from the lack of financial support after having their sponsors being laid off their jobs or having their salaries deducted. Furthermore, many students and academic staff have been struggling being away from their families during the summer due to travel restrictions. Additionally, the overprotection behaviors conducted by some parents have instilled fear in their children. The National College Health Assessment indicates that more than half of students are overwhelmed or suffer from loneliness because of not socializing with their mates (Whitley, 2020). Also, many students especially young ones are having hard times staying self-motivated to stay in front of their devices for long hours to study. Therefore, teachers should not only focus on delivering the curriculum in an academic way but to add some recreational activities especially for young students to draw their attention, which added more responsibilities and challenges to some teachers. Handling such unprecedent incident has its challenges on both students and academic staffs.
To recapitulate briefly, with the emergence of Covid19 outbreak, many nations have been affected in many ways. This impacted probably all sectors. One of the major divisions that has been hit hard is the Education system affecting students and academic staff. People safety is number one priority. For that reason, crowded spaces were eliminated by temporarily shutting down all busy locations including schools and shifting classes to online. Terminating physical classes has resulted in some hurdles such as meeting the quality of education, and having sufficient resources along with technical difficulties, as well as keeping up with students and employees. This pandemic has shown which faculties are able to deal with such crisis and which are not. From my own perspective, as our modern life is shifting to a high-tech world, the Ministry of Education should seize this opportunity to reassess its system and focus on facilitating all schools with sufficient resources to make virtual classes more qualified. Though this would not eliminate the role of physical schools as it is indispensable. Academic staffs, students and their families should not only focus on getting up-to-date information and news about the pandemic and ways of prevention, but also to stick together in these tough times and spread love and support in order get through this critical period well, safe and sound.